Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week In Review: Off-Season Changes

What an incredible week of NASCAR news involving the TV and media folks in the sport. Here is a rundown of what happened and links to the stories and topics we discussed here at TDP.

The NASCAR on FOX production team gathered on Monday and Tuesday for their annual meeting in the Charlotte, NC area. Chris Myers and Larry McReynolds both asked NASCAR fans on Twitter to offer suggestions they would then bring up at the meeting. Great use of social media.

This is the first season for Michael Waltrip on FOX. He will take the place of Jeff Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel. Hammond will become a "roving reporter." FOX executives paired the Waltrip brothers on several Camping World Truck Series races on SPEED and apparently liked the results.

Sports Business Journal just released the new "50 Most Influential" people in sports. NASCAR Chairman Brian France is at #17, up slightly from last year. No other motorsports executive is on the list.

NASCAR personalities are involved in bringing sprint cars to the annual Chili Bowl off-season race in Tulsa, OK. This indoor event runs over several days and features drivers from all over the globe running on a dirt track indoors. The only information currently available puts an edited version of the final on CBS January 28. Tried hard to get more information, no one from the Chili Bowl or Lucas Oil Productions responded.

Within a five day period, SPEED president Hunter Nickell and executive vice president Patti Wheeler both left the network. Click here for the full story. The FOX Sports news release about Nickell hinted he may take another position within the larger FOX Sports parent company. Wheeler had no press release and left suddenly after some executive changes on the West Coast affected her reporting structure.

This leaves SPEED without a company leader, although we hear an interim president will be announced next week. Wheeler ran both the programming and production departments at SPEED, so what will happen next with the network in terms of programming direction or key on-air personalities is unknown.

Wheeler is a NASCAR TV veteran, having run TNN Motorsports and her own TV production company for years. She aggressively built the RaceHub series and was in the middle of creating the SPEED Center show that updated all motorsports throughout the racing weekends. Her decision to depart will have a big effect on the network.

We documented the frustration with the lack of the SiriusXM NASCAR channel being available online. Click here to read about the continuing stand-off between Turner Sports and SiriusXM. NASCAR can't fix this one.

Finally, the off-season has meant a complete stoppage of all NASCAR news TV programming. While ESPN has always wrapped NASCAR Now on the night of the final race, SPEED was trying to grow the motorsports news franchise and has simply dropped the ball.

Ironically, much of the best off-season NASCAR news and analysis is coming from SPEED's own website, Facebook page and Twitter account. Somehow, the executives on the TV side have not gotten the message that SPEED had better get a studio show on the air quickly or risk damaging both the RaceHub and SPEED Center franchises when the new season starts.

There seems to be a great deal of frustration around right now when it comes to the NASCAR presence on SPEED's TV side. If the new senior management moves the network back into the "lifestyle programming" blocks seen a while back on weekdays, it would be a very serious set-back for SPEED's motorsports credibility.

We invite your comments on these subjects. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and visit the weekend edition of TDP.


Jimbo, who is sorely disappointed in NASCAR's iron grip said...

Reporting on NASCAR has to shut down during the off season. There is no money in the NASCAR budget for the censors and strong-arms who keep everyone on message.

SD80MAC said...

Off Topic: I know there are some Randy LaJoie fans that hang out here...he will be co-hosting Press Pass on SiriusXM NASCAR today 12noon to 3pm EST.

iworkhere said...

What happened to Rick Minor and "Muscles" who used to be a couple head honchos with Speed?
They still around?

matriarch said...

JD, you turned me off the instant I saw the opening photo of MW. I don't need to be reminded of his upcoming presence next year. My excitement for the 2012 season just got dashed with the reminder of Speed's lack of knowledge of what and who fans want to see and hear.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Rick is still there as VP and has been working on many projects for the network.

He is not one of the "in group" of LA-based guys who are taking over the network.

Hope he survives, he certainly was critical to getting SPEED re-organized and running in Charlotte.


The new head of NASCAR communications and PR is a brand marketing exec who is famous for keeping everyone "on message" and focused on "being positive."


Thanks for the heads up on Randy, bad mistake by ESPN not bringing him back in 2011.


Still believe DW is going to pass the torch to Mikey when he is gone. Can't believe current multi-team Sprint Cup Series owner will be in the position of commenting on National TV about his cars and the teams of his competitors.


OSBORNK said...

I don't think Brian's move up in the most influencial ranks is necessarily a good thing. The influence can be for the better or for the worse.

Buschseries61 said...

With all these changes at SPEED, are there plans for online coverage of the 'Preseason Thunder Testing' at Daytona like last year?

It's coming fast, just over 3 weeks away. There are a lot of drivers and teams trying to get things settled for 2012 in this 3 week span.

SD80MAC said...

I sure wish Speed would show some classic races during the winter. They should be able to get rights for them from NMG. SiriusXM is airing the 1991 Banquet Frozen Foods 300 this weekend. You can bet on it that I'll be listening to that!

Of course, it would really be nice to have a Speed Center show later this evening so we could see video backing up this tweet that just blew me out of my chair...

@spdctr Milka Duno (186.016 mph) fastest among 50+ drivers in single-car ARCA testing at Daytona Saturday morning

GinaV24 said...

I'm fighting a cold so I woke up in the middle of the night and was looking for something to watch to help me nod off -- since it was a choice of infomercials, horror movies (not my choice to watch if I want to go back to sleep), as I was surfing by I hit speed - they were broadcasting a marathon version of dumbest stuff on wheels -- what a useless show. Fortunately the medicine kicked back in and I fell asleep.

I'm with Matriarch - ugh, please no pictures of motormouth to intro articles. I'm trying to not think about how annoying the coverage will be with both Waltrips in the booth. It's a shame there won't be race buddy for the Fox broadcasts, but I can tell you that I will not have the sound up for the broadcasts, I am definitely renewing my trackpass subscription so I don't have to listen to the babbling noises that will masquerade as coverage on Fox.

The executives haven't gotten the message because they, like NASCAR, don't care about the fans, they care about $$.

I'm not sure why BZF moved up in the ranks, the sport is bleeding sponsors and fans - does that make him influential or notorious?

The new PR nazi for NASCAR can silence everyone but the fans and JD for which I am very grateful.

Anonymous said...

JD-Is there any chance of Versus getting involved in broadcasting NASCAR?

Daly Planet Editor said...

No word from NBC at all. They seem to be chasing Olympic stuff like ESPN chases college rights.

Waiting for Daytona testing info. SPEED is kind of a mess right now.

AncientRacer said...

"This is London"

I have always wanted to say that just like Murrow did on the radio during WWII, and it is true right now as I am there (here) for Christmas -- long a dream, but I find, to my great dismay, carolers in London trying to look like 19th century carolers in London look just as silly as they do in the U.S. Maybe sillier....

It is after midnight here the 18th, but I am disappointed no one has responded from Speed, JD. We know they read this thing. After all, Steve Byrnes did write in a few weeks ago or so...

@Gina -- hope your cold gets better. No. That is wrong. I hope your cold goes away...

Merry Christmas if I don't get back in before then!

SD80MAC said...

Well, Duh! I just had one of those sudden "hit between the eyeballs with a 2X4" realizations. Myself and other people have posted here several times wishing that Speed would simulcast some of the SiriusXM NASCAR shows. That is pretty much impossible. The hosts are rarely in the same studio. Many of them work from home using a ISDN phone line.

On The Morning Drive, Mike Bagley is at his home in Atlanta and Pete Pistone is at his home in Chicago. On Trading Paint Monday-Thursday, Rick Benjamin and Chocolate Myers are both in the NASCAR Hall Of Fame studio, but on Friday, Benjamin is at his home in Charlotte and Buddy Baker is at his home in Lake Norman. Most of the time, Dave Moody and Angie Skinner are in the MRN studio in Concord, but sometimes she works from her home in Statesville or a relative's home in Florida. Claire B Lang works either from her home or is on the road at race tracks. Jim Noble sometimes is at his home, or the MRN studio, or the Hall Of Fame studio. On race weekends, many of the hosts are at the tracks.

beerslinger said...

speed is useless for me after nascar seasons over not much better when in nascar season looks like going to be bad year for all

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

I was using my Directv iPhone app to DVR the Hall of Fame biographies. Not knowing exactly when they would be on I had to scroll thru Speed's entire lineup.

As JD would say "oh boy". A million back to back episodes of "truck u" and a similar amount of "dumbest stuff on wheels, sandwiched by I don't know what all that crap was.

I immediately thought of you, JD. I started laughing because what else can you do. Based on your comments on what is happening on Speed looks like I might be saving some money moving to a lower tier.

Maybe we will all be surprised. Oops. Laughing again.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Just a little note. The Sirius announcers do whatever they need to do to get paid. Keep in mind who is driving the bus.

Part of solving the entire SiriusXM issue is getting a handle on what product is being delivered on the weekdays and what extra value it has.

I have some pretty radical ideas on that subject and believe that 90% of the good content from the Sirius weekday programs goes up in smoke.

They are a satellite radio company that does not understand radio, the Internet or social media.

Next year is going to be pretty crucial for them. The current audience size for the NASCAR channel is very small.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to puke, when I saw the photo of "motormouth" at the top of today's article. Can you believe we will have both him and JAWS, together, once again. Great comment by one reader about the shilling we will be getting for Motormouth Motorsports and Toyota, from both of these clowns. I will never forget the Daytona 500 in 2007, when JAWS gave all of us a running, 30 minute commercial for Toyota and Motormouth Motorsports for the first 30 minutes of the race, until the 55 fell to the back and pretty much stayed there.

Russ said...

JD, there were some of us who enjoyed the variety of motorsports on the old Speedvision. As you recall they carried everything from Australian and British Touring cars to offshore powerboats.

But that all changed when it was sold and moved to Charlotte. The concern among our group was that it would become "all Nascar all the time". For a while it looked like that was going to be the story.

Now however it is neither. So what happened?

Daly Planet Editor said...


The original idea was for FOX to enter into a long-term partnership with NASCAR. SPEED would become the NASCAR Network and the NASCAR Media Group would be the production company and supply the product.

Unfortunately, there were some very fundamental problems with the original plan and neither party was able to commit when the time came.

If you want SpeedVision, keep an eye on Velocity network because they have been creeping around and looking at some of the very same product that gave SpeedVision its original following.


Russ said...

Thanks JD. I wondered why it never became the Nascar Channel. And now looks to be, perhaps its just an offseason thing, retreating into the lifestyle programming.

Will see if Velocity is part of the Comcast lineup.

Brian Vermette said...

Three simple things:
1. NASCAR Chairman Brian France is at #17, really??? Giving Brian France this award is like giving the lady from National Grid an award, neither deserve it, because they didn't do their jobs correctly.

2. NASCAR need to partner with another network instead of making their own. How about CBS or NBC. There has to be a good network that can handle NASCAR's programming especially live ones that is both in homes all over the world and online.

3. SPEED is changing and NASCAR isn't included in these changes. SPEED Channel, the automotive channel without Motorsports or NASCAR.

By the way SPEED, come on, no Speed Center even on Sunday's, give us a break.

GinaV24 said...

Ancient, that is very cool that you are in London for Christmas - I hope you have a wonderful time - even if the pretend Dickens carolers look silly!

I hope the cold goes away too. It will make Christmas a lot easier if I don't have the dwarves, Sneezy and Coughy, as guests.

I've been watching football both on Fox and on CBS and it is good TV coverage. Always makes me envious when I compare how professionally things are done in one sport by comparison to NASCAR.

Russ said...

I always thought that one of the basic rules of business was that if there was a need and a way to make money off it somebody would fill it.

None of the networks is apparently against making money. And they are capable of doing sports well, witness college and pro football and basketball.

So is it purely a case of not being profitable that is causing the dearth of Nascar programming? And is just a preview of the new TV contract in the not so distant future.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time ever that I can say I am truly not looking forward to Daytona in Feb., simply because we all know it will just be a Waltrip fiasco from start to finish. Hard to believe that the people in charge of Nascar would allow their product to be denigrated in this fashion.

Anonymous said...

I think most alert Fans have figured out that the only reason the Walmouth's are always around is because of France and France Only! He has strong armed or attempted to strong arm most of the media to promote the Waltrip's in every manner. France has got to be a silent partner in Motormouth Motor Sports as well. It is certain that France has something going on with the Waltrips because the Fans certainly don't!